No parent should have to talk about terminal illness with their children. However, when a child or family member gets sick, the child must learn about a difficult part of life early. Learn how to approach the topic of terminal illness with children.
1. Educate your child
You will need to explain the situation to your children, but that can be difficult. A child's mind may struggle to comprehend terminal illness and its consequences. Use kid-friendly chronic illness resources, such as books and movies, to explain the illness to your child. These resources are designed to explain it in a way that children can understand without creating too much fear.
2. Encourage questions and conversation
Allow your child to ask questions about the situation. Research medical questions together or write them down for the doctor.
You should also encourage your child to express their emotions. Start by asking, "how are you feeling?" Some children will want to express themselves, while others won't. Don't force children to talk about it. Encourage children to talk about the situation whenever and however they feel comfortable.
3. Be honest
Terminal illness forces parents to address some truth truths about life. Some parents avoid hard questions, but it's better to be direct. You can be direct without being harsh. Your child may feel sad about the truth, and you should support them and reassure them that it's okay to feel sad. Your child will eventually appreciate that you told them the truth instead of experiencing a loss unexpectedly.
4. Support the ill family member
Your child will not know what to do about the situation. As a family, come up with things to do in support of the sick family member. For example, you can draw "get well" cards, decorate the hospital room, visit the family member when they feel well, and make them treats.
5. Keep things as positive as possible
Terminal illness comes with heaviness and sadness attached to it. However, you don't need to dwell in those negative places. Show your child that it's not all sad by continuing to joke, play, and enjoy life while you support your fighting family member.
When someone gets sick in the family, the whole family needs to come together to support them. Children will want to offer support, too. While we want to protect children from sadness, it's not always possible. Use this as a learning experience to teach your children about illness, mortality, and compassion.
Reach out to a company like Tiny Docs for more info about kid-friendly chronic illness resources.